WASHINGTON – Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD), the incoming House Democratic Whip, released the following statement today at a press conference attended by Senior House Democrats who called for the immediate extension of unemployment insurance benefits (Congressman Hoyer, who was attending a funeral in his Congressional District, was unable to attend the press conference):
"The Bush Administration and Republicans can talk about compassion all they want. But the American people need to understand this: When it came time to really do something to help hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans in November, Republicans turned their heads and stood by in silence while Democrats tried to get them to act. That’s not compassion. That’s crass indifference.
"Because of that failure to act, because Republicans failed to do anything more than just talk about compassion, approximately 830,000 Americans will be completely cut off from unemployment insurance benefits just three days after Christmas. And that figure doesn’t even include the number of children who will bear the brunt of our worsening unemployment problem. Jobless Americans still have mortgage payments. They still have medical bills. They still need to buy daily essentials. But the GOP, the party that talks about compassion for its own political expediency, chose to do nothing – the equivalent of giving jobless Americans a lump of coal for Christmas.
"Democrats urge Republicans to join us in passing a real, meaningful extension of unemployment benefits as our first act of the 108th Congress. Let’s pass a 26-week extension and make it retroactive to December 28th. Let’s abandon the GOP’s cheap alternative that does much less for far fewer.
"It’s encouraging that it finally dawned on President Bush last week that unemployment is a problem in this nation and Americans are hurting. But he should have seen that and weighed in back in November. I urge him to support the Democratic alternative. It’s time Republicans really put some compassion behind what to date is nothing more than transparent rhetoric."